The surprisingly nostalgic mid-season return of The CW's Supernatural found Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) living the dream while Michael takes control…again. Sam (Jared Padalecki), Castiel (Misha Collins), and Jack (Alexander Calvert) deal with Michael's curveball thanks to help from some very unexpected allies. Grab a slice of pie and settle in, there's quite a bit to unpack from "Nihilism."
I must confess, Michael's storyline has been underwhelming so far. He possessed Dean, mentally scarring him with horrifying sights done by his hand. Been there, done that. Even when Michael exited, his actions still haunted Dean. I wasn't too surprised when Michael sunk his hooks back in. Nothing goes that easily for the Winchesters. I was more annoyed that we'd be stuck with "MicDean" ("Dichael?") for awhile longer. I prefer my Dean as is – although Michael's suits are pretty stylish. But I digress…
We pick up in the heat of the action. Michael is in control again, but our guys came prepared. They slap on angel mojo dampening handcuffs and gain the upper hand. With Michael's monster mob iclose to breaking the door down, Sam calls upon their reaper.
Only Sam can see Victoria, which is pretty funny from Cass and Jack's perspective. Reapers aren't supposed to meddle – but after checking in with the boss, Victoria whooshes them back to the bunker. Phew! One crisis averted. Time to deal with Michael on their own turf.
Sam recalls how Gadreel (Tahmoh Penikett) possessed him years ago (thanks for the flashbacks) and knows they can help Dean if they get inside his head. While they prep, Michael plays mind-games with Jack.
He knows Dean's thoughts/feelings and claims Jack's death was a relief – to them all. The look on poor Jack's face. I love how Cass quickly tells him not to believe a word Michael says. Jack is their family and that is all he needs to know.
Before heading in, Michael reveals his motives and endgame. He's pissed at Chuck and wants payback. Chuck makes these worlds and moves on to the next one when he's dissatisfied or bored with the outcomes. Michael wants to destroy every world before killing Chuck and taking his place. Ugh. Michael is officially the worst.
Why do archangels have to be so terrible? Can we have a more helpful/hopeful Chuck and well-intended angels in next season?
Dean's dream needs to become a reality at some point because I am so down with this scene: Rocky's Bar – complete with Squirrel holding a beer – is Dean's Roadhouse. For the record, Eric Kripke didn't like the Roadhouse, so he burned it down. That always bummed me out. A bar is the perfect place for hunters to hang! Bonus points for the subtle nod to Ackles' Family Business Beer Co. in Austin.
In an interesting twist, Pamela (Thunderbird Dinwiddie) – the psychic from Season 4 – works with Dean. Way to dig deep into his subconscious! I was hoping we'd see Ash (Chad Lindberg), Jo (Alona Tal) or Ellen (Samantha Ferris) again too, especially in a bar. Pamela and Dean are waiting for Sam and Cass to return from a hunting trip, so their entrance isn't a shocking event.
Supernatural has known how to manipulate us for the previous 13 seasons. While Cass and Sam travel through Dean's brain, we hear snippets of dialogue that still makes us weepy. Sam quickly realizes that Michael's original plan backfired: Dean thrives off of trauma. No kidding! However, he'd be complacent in a happy memory – better yet, in a dream. Yes, I felt mushy at all the sweet soundbites, too.
Moments after their arrival in the bar, Sam and Cass realize that Dean is stuck in a loop. Chatter, booze, vamp kills, repeat. We haven't seen these scenarios play out quite like this before. Dean finds it hard to believe – but the more Sam reminds him of the details, the more his perception changes. Pamela lost her eyes when she saw Castiel's true form. Dean remembers and boom she has no eyes. Sam also remembers they had a safe word for such an occasion – "Poughkeepsie." That's the game changer – waking Dean up to his reality.
Now we have Dean v. MicDean. Seeing double Deans should get old, but it doesn't. As they all duke it out, Dean realizes he is in control. His brain, his rules. They lock Michael in a closet and as long as Dean can keep his head on straight, there's no escape. Of course, Michael won't make it easy for him – banging and yelling Dean into a constant migraine. Still, we'll take the win.
The other earthers had an eventful night trying to help Sam out. They drove in circles for a while, but still got the job done. They retrieved the Impala – with poor Garth (DJ Qualls) in the trunk. They avoided contact with Michael's monster mob – almost. One of the hunters got predictably bit, so the whole gang is under attack in the bunker.
Jack instinctively uses his reinstated soul mojo to kill the monsters with one blast. He had no choice and has no regrets – though Cass has us worried about the consequences.
I love Castiel's heart-to-heart with Jack after his super save. When Jack uses his powers, he kills off part of his soul – and we all know what happens when someone is soulless. Cass warns Jack never to use his powers again. Uh-oh. All I can think is – please don't put us through Soulless 2.0.
I didn't care for "Soulless Sam" and really don't want to see "Soulless Jack." I'm sure the writers have better ideas than repeating history time and again. Jack barely got a soul and it cost Cass dearly – he better not waste it. While the road to Hell may be paved with good intentions – Jack better not go down that road.
The episode ends with an enigmatic scene between Billie the boss reaper (Lisa Berry) and Dean. She once showed him a room full of all the possible ways he could die (most of them were probably used in "Mystery Spot"). Now they all say Dean will die the same way – at the hands of Michael. Ruh-ro!
All except for one book, which she kindly hands over to him. Phew! There's hope. Judging by Dean's expression, Option B also sucks. Once again the Winchesters will go with the lesser of two evils.
Based on the promo for next week's episode – it looks like Lucifer might be that "lesser evil."
This is one of the better episodes from this season. I feel like the nostalgia is setting us up for the highly-anticipated 300th episode. They brought the feels and touched on some moments from the past that were included in my favorite episodes over the years. And they did it all with a delightful dash of humor and a few pandoring winks at SPN Family. Well played!
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.